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West Texas A&M’s President: “A harmless drag show? No such thing.”

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at TAMU chapter.

Monday, March 20th

On Monday, March 20th, 2023, West Texas A&M’s president, Walter Wendler, canceled the campus drag show, stating, “A harmless drag show? No such thing.” In his statement, he compared drag to “blackface” performances and said they are “derisive, divisive, and demoralizing misogyny.” His argument was that drag shows take away from the years that women have fought against stereotypes, saying it “exaggerates aspects of womanhood (sexuality, femininity, gender.)”

A student-led LGBTQ+ group filed a lawsuit

On March 24th, 2023, a student-led LGBTQ+ activist group, Spectrum, filed a lawsuit against Wendler with the help of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. In his original statement, Wendler wrote that he would not “condone the diminishment of any group at the expense of impertinent gestures toward another group for any reason, even when the law of the land appears to require it.” This activist group is suing for the violation of the First Amendment, asking the court to reinstate the campus drag show. Moreover, if the show is reinstated, they are asking that Wendler personally pays for both the exemplary damages and attorney fees that came along with the suit. 

District judge rules against immediate relief

On March 27th, 2023, district judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk ruled against a portion of Spectrum’s requests, denying them immediate relief. The request entailed a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction that would have allowed the drag event to continue as normal.

The Trevor Project

The show intended to raise money for The Trevor Project, which focuses on suicide prevention in the LGBTQ+ community. According to The Trevor Project, “LGBTQ youth are over four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers,” and they “found that 45% of LGBTQ youth have seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year.” The West Texas A&M president claims that it is best to “skip the show and send the dough.” However, money cannot begin to solve this issue. If LGBTQ+ individuals are not given the opportunity to express themselves freely, wherever that may be, these statistics might not ever change. And by canceling the campus drag show, West Texas A&M is contributing to the worsening of this problem.

What can be done about this?

Unfortunately, the earliest that the students will know if the performance is approved is March 30th, 2023. This is one day before it is scheduled to occur. Until then, there is a petition that you can sign if you would like to show your support of both the show and the LGBTQ+ community. The petition “[hopes] to bring this issue to Dr. Wendler’s attention and urge him to reinstate the drag show on campus.”

Sydney Heller is a student writer for the Her Campus at TAMU chapter. She enjoys writing articles on entertainment, culture, news, and more. Sydney is a senior English major at Texas A&M University. In addition to writing for Her Campus at TAMU, she is the Communications Intern for the Department of English’s undergraduate office, where she manages social media accounts, promotes department events, produces the monthly additions of The English Aggie newsletter, and more. She is also a member of a Texas A&M organization known as SWAMP, which stands for screenwriting, acting, and movie production. In this organization, she is learning about cinematography, lighting, screenwriting, and, in general, how to make a movie. In her free time, Sydney enjoys painting, listening to music, and writing poetry. She also has a tortoiseshell cat named Drizzy who she loves to play with. Sydney is a Dance Moms fanatic and can quote almost every episode easily. She is very excited for Abby Lee Miller’s new reality TV show, MAD House, to premiere. Some of her favorite music artists include Taylor Swift, Arctic Monkeys, Noah Kahan, and Olivia Rodrigo. In the future, Sydney hopes to become an investigative journalist or a screenwriter. She is looking forward to her second semester with Her Campus at TAMU. Gig 'em!